FIU hosts preeminent international lawyers

FIU Law is quickly becoming the place to be for leaders in international law.

Recently, the college hosted a two-day international law symposium celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations’ International Law Commission (ILC) and its role and contributions to the development of international law. Many members from the commission, judges, diplomats, international law professors from around the world and students gathered at Modesto A. Maidique Campus Oct. 27-28 to discuss legal issues affecting the globe in the open environment of academia. FIU is the only law school in the world to have hosted an ILC conference in this symbolically important anniversary year.

“It was a wonderful opportunity for us to learn from a very distinguished group of people about an area of law very important to FIU. The International Law Commission is one of the leading bodies in the development and codification of international law. It fits perfectly with our mission,” says Antony Page, dean of the College of Law.

FIU professor Charles Jalloh, the organizing faculty member of the event, is one of only 34 members on the ILC. Members have to be nominated and elected by states, though they serve as independent experts. Only two of them are current law professors at U.S. universities.

Jalloh was enthusiastic about hosting his peers from around the world. In addition to the importance of the ILC as one of the preeminent institutions of the post World War II legal order, the group had the opportunity to more critically discuss the accomplishments of the ILC and the global challenges presently facing the international community. They also discussed how legal experts should help states develop the rules to peacefully regulate their interactions with each other.

“Such lessons learned may not typically come up at a traditional UN celebration of such institutions,” says Jalloh. “Or if they do come up, they are often not pursued with the same level of vigor as is common in academia.”

Sea level rise was one of the issues discussed frankly.

“Human activity contributes to climate change and leads to the destruction of the environment. That is hard to regulate because the environment does not belong to any country or groups of countries. Rather, the environment is part of the global commons,” says Jalloh. “At the ILC, we are studying global legal problems and looking for global legal solutions that different countries can then take up and implement.

“For example, we are presently debating what kinds of principles countries should adopt to better protect the atmosphere, another important part of the global commons. Islands are beginning to disappear in some parts of the world, such as the Pacific. In some cases, due to loss of territory, entire populations have to be moved — which is why the ILC just this summer added a study of that topic to its long-term work program.”

Jalloh adds: “Can lawyers in our kind of group help countries set rules to tackle such unprecedented problems?”

During the symposium, FIU students seized the opportunity to learn from arguably the most prominent international lawyers on the globe.

“I find it interesting to see how states interact with one another, how they have to protect their own citizens and maintain good diplomatic relationships with other countries,” says Amirah Mohammed, a third-year law student at FIU who interned with Jalloh at the ILC over the summer. Mohammed was one of four FIU Law students who had the opportunity to listen into those conversations and to walk the halls of the United Nations in New York and Geneva this past summer — halls that are usually only frequented by those from Ivy League universities.

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